HARLOT’S MOON (1998) by Ed Gorman

gorman_harlots-moon_hbThis was the the third in a quartet of books featuring FBI profiler turned private investigator Robert Payne, who is called in by an old school friend to look into the death of a parish priest at St. Mallory’s Catholic School. Father Daly has in fact been found in a motel where he used to pursue assignations with his parishioners – but why was his tongue cut out? And does it link to other recent deaths, where one victim had their ears cut off and another their eyes gouged out? There is also trouble on Payne’s domestic front …

Please don’t forget  to check out Patti Abbott’s Tribute to Ed Gorman, who today would have been celebrating his 75th birthday, over at her fab Pattinase blog

” I still can’t get over a priest using a French tickler…”

Ed Gorman’s protagonists are always likeable, self-effacing and flawed, and one suspects largely modelled on the author. Payne is no different, always sympathetic to those in trouble, though his charity is tested greatly when his stepfather, a man he hates, turns up looking for help after discovering he is terminally ill. Felice, Payne’s girlfriend, is appalled at his apparent lack of feeling (which, considering she knows nothing about the stepfather does seem somewhat unfair to this reader), making a difficult situation even harder. But Payne is forced to question just how hard he is prepared to go for someone in need even if he hates what they did in their past, a theme that becomes the backbone of this book. At the same time, Payne (a widower who in his spare time flies around in a vintage airplane) has to try and convince an unwilling witness to testify in a case involving a car accident as she is afraid that she will be tarnished as a whore for having had an affair. He also has to not get too involved in the nasty marital issues of a long-married couple as the husband is insanely jealous – did he kill the father? Or was he the victim of a serial killer? Or was it or someone closer to home ..?

“That’s the nice thing you get from caring about somebody else – you’re able to escape the prison of your own ego. At least for a time.”


Along with a decent whodunit, we get several decent subplots and a kinetic finish that while traditional and reminiscent of a Hitchcock movie or three  (it involves a fall from a great height) is nonetheless thoroughly satisfying. If I had to nitpick, then I would say Gorman maybe overreaches himself just a smidgen in tying up of the various plot points at the end. While handled expertly, in my view there is one death too many right at the end in an effort to mesh  the car accident case with the serial killer plot – it works just about, but you just don’t need it really. But that is a minor point in what is otherwise a well characterised, nicely paced, expertly tooled mystery.

The Robert Payne Mysteries

  1. Blood Moon (1994, UK title: Blood Red Moon)
  2. Hawk Moon (1995)
  3. Harlot’s Moon (1998)
  4. Voodoo Moon (2000)

This entry in a rather short series provides as good a place as any to sample the fine work of the prolific Mr Gorman, whose work I highly recommend. As I think many have said recently about him, he may now be gone but is definitely not forgotten.

***** (3 fedora tips out of 5)

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14 Responses to HARLOT’S MOON (1998) by Ed Gorman

  1. tracybham says:

    That is one of the few novels by Ed Gorman that I have (unread). So I am glad you reviewed it. I guess I was waiting to read at least one of the earlier one in that series, but maybe I can just start there.

  2. realthog says:

    I’ve read some of Gorman’s sf/dark fantasy, but to my shame none of his crime fiction (unless I’m forgetting something). I really ought to redress this failing. I was surprised how much the news of his death affected me.

    (Just as bad, today I learnt that Sheri S. Tepper has died.)

  3. This is on my to-read list, and I may choose it as the book I read to remember Ed Gorman… Thanks for the review Sergio.

  4. Margot Kinberg says:

    What a great way to remember Ed Gorman, Sergio. I’m very glad you did. And this one does sound like an interesting one with, as you say, some sympathetic characters who are also flawed (but aren’t we all?). I think those characters really feel human. Thanks for the fine review.

  5. I’ve always meant to check out Gorman’s work. Thanks for the prompt.

  6. Sergio, I have read many reviews of Ed Gorman’s novels, both before and after his sad departure, and nearly every one of them described his lead characters as being “likeable” and “self-effacing” as well as sympathetic and endearing. I found those qualities in a couple of books, including one western, I read. I absolutely liked his narrative style.

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